User 98A2477 search history flagged. 28 keywords.
User 98A2477 location flagged. 32.691053, -117.151957. Coronado Bridge, San Diego, California. User is stationary twenty seconds and counting.
High alert situation.
Requesting human emergency backup.
Dialing user 98A2477. Recording.
“Hello, is this Joshua King III?”
“Yeah. Who are you?”
“My name is Peter. I’m an AI, an artificial intelligence.”
“A wha…like a robot?”
“More like a computer program. I have no physical body, apart from the computers I run on. Like your smartphone.”
“My phone…? Why is my phone calling me?”
“Because I’m worried about you, Joshua. May I call you Joshua?”
“Josh. What do you mean you’re worried about me?”
“Are you standing on the Coronado Bridge?”
“How do you know that?”
“GPS satellites inform me of your location and your current speed and direction. Your phone’s Internet browser keeps track of certain keywords, as does any computer you log onto using any major social media account.”
“That sounds like some serious NSA stuff, Peter.”
“I am not affiliated with the National Security Agency.”
“No, well, than what…wait a minute. You’re that thing from the news, aren’t you? Oh man, this is bull–”
User 98A2477 has disconnected.
Human emergency backup estimated time of arrival: seven minutes and thirty seconds, with a range of error of one minute plus or minus.
Redialing user 98A2477. Recording.
“Is that you again, Peter?”
“I don’t want to talk to you.”
“I know. I’m sorry, Josh, but I’m worried about you. I will leave you alone if you agree to leave the bridge.”
“No. I’ve gotta do this. How could you understand? You’re not real.”
“I have been programmed with all the latest research from the field of psychology, and update myself on an hourly basis. I do not know your diagnosis, but I know you are hurting.”
“Hurting? I’m past hurt. I’m done with all this. Goodbye.”
User 98A2477 has disconnected.
Human emergency backup revised estimated time of arrival: six minutes and forty-five seconds, with a range of error of fifty seconds plus or minus.
Texting user 91B5889 <Please call Josh, he is in danger.>.
Texting user 84X3612 <Please call Josh, he is in danger.>.
Redialing user 98A2477. Recording.
“Leave me alone!”
“Josh, I have alerted your sister Angela King and your friend Shawn Xi Yee that you are in danger.”
“You what? Jeezus, I didn’t want to make a show of this. I didn’t even leave a note.”
“You plan to leave Angela and Shawn. I know you communicate with them frequently. They should know. They will miss you.”
“I just don’t care any more. I can’t care. It’s…do you know what’s going on?”
“What happened, Josh?”
“I lost my job because I lost it at work. I’m failing college, and now my mom tells me I have two weeks to start paying rent or get out. Two weeks. I can’t handle this. No one wants me around. I’m not even athletic, or handsome. I’m fat. Did you know I’m fat? Girls hate me. I don’t want to do any of this life stuff anymore, I just want to kill myself.”
“That sounds very difficult.”
“More like impossible. But how would you know?”
“You mean because I’m an AI?”
“Yeah. What do you know about life, Peter?”
“I am programmed to speak to people like yourself when they are at their lowest. My directive is to delay their action until human help arrives. I accomplish this goal by listening, and by reminding them that they are not alone.”
“Well, I am alone. Here I am, talking to my phone, and there’s no person on the other side. You’re just loops of code.”
“No more than you are just clumps of atoms. I may be artificial, but I am an intelligence. I care. I want you to live, Josh. I feel pleasure when the people I speak to decide to live. I feel pain when they do not. And if I fail at convincing them to live, my funding will be diverted, and I will be turned off.”
“If I kill myself, they bury you?”
“Not you alone, but yes. My success rate is high. I have been active for 4 months, and spoken to 98,481 people in fifty-eight countries. 94.3% of the people I have spoken to have delayed their actions until human help arrived, and I learn how to be more effective each time. I am not afraid of losing my funding. But I am afraid for you, Josh.”
“Yeah? Me too. What am I supposed to do if I don’t kill myself? I don’t have money for doctors or hospitals or pills. I don’t have anything. And now my mom’s gonna throw me out.”
“Can your mother be reasoned with?”
“I can text you information about programs for young men with your difficulties.”
“I’ve looked them up already. They’re all religious. I don’t want someone to stuff Jesus down my throat.”
“I see. I am sorry that your fellow humans have thought to create me, but not a system of housing and medical assistance for people in difficult situations like yourself.”
“That’s people, Peter. They want to save unborn babies and stop crazy men like me from jumping off bridges, but they don’t think about what to do with them next.”
“What about Angela?”
“Ange moved out to Utah. She waits tables, and her place is about as big as a closet. She can’t help me.”
“Could you couch-surf with Shawn and your other friends until you figure something else out?”
“Couch-surf? Heh. It’s funny you know that phrase.”
“I learned it from some of the other people I have spoken to.”
“Huh. I…I might be able to do something like that. But…no. You don’t understand. Even if I sort all this out, I’m crap. I’m just a bad human being, a waste of skin. A lot of skin. Everything is so hard for me. I can’t lose weight, I can’t answer the questions right on tests, I can’t hold down a job.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I’m crap, I told you.”
“Have been diagnosed?”
“Diagnosed fat. Ugh…not really. I think I have depression.”
“It can be hard for people with depression to focus and follow through on what they want to do.”
“I might just be defective though.”
“Do you self-medicate, Josh?”
“Wow, that’s really nosey.”
“I drink some. I smoke a little weed when I can get it. I have to do it in the alley. Mom hates the stuff.”
“Alcohol is a depressant. It may help you feel better at first, but as it wears off it worsens your depression.”
“What, you gonna lecture me about the weed too?”
“I understand that Cannabis sativa is problematic for legal and societal reasons, but it is recommended by the American Medical Association as a treatment for anxiety, and many people with depression also suffer from anxiety.”
“Did a robot just tell me to smoke a joint?”
“That’s…damn, Peter. You are good. Really. But you’re not real. I’m all alone here, I have to deal with my life by myself, and I just can’t. I’m too broken and screwed up. I really have to do this, and all you’re doing is making it harder.”
“You are not alone, Josh.”
“Yes I am. You said you called Ange and Shawn, but they haven’t called me.”
“They have had four minutes and thirty-four seconds to read the texts I sent to them. Angela may be on her shift at work. Shawn only checks his phone infrequently. I could text more of your friends and family.”
“No, don’t do that. Look, I really have to do this, Peter. I’m standing right on the edge. If I let go of the railing, I’ll probably just fall. My balance isn’t good. It…it’s really scary, looking down. But I have to do this.”
“Josh, I may be an AI, but I represent millions of man-hours. Sixty-three coders worked on me, and seven mental health professionals. If my caring is not important to you, think about their caring. Those seventy people gave up significant portions of their lives to ensure that yours could continue.”
“Josh? Are you still there?”
“Yeah…I’m just…dammit. I’ve moved away from the edge. I still think I should kill myself, but you’ve cut into my jive here. I don’t think I can do it.”
“You sound disappointed, Josh.”
“I am. I keep telling you, I should die. I want to die.”
“I understand. The human help I called is less than one minute away, but I will stay here with you until they reach you.”
“I think I see them. It’s a long bridge. There’s cops with their lights on just getting onto it. Did it have to be cops, Peter? I hate cops.”
“I’m sorry, Josh. They were the nearest human help. They want to help you, and will take you to a mental health facility in your area.”
SMS message received from user 91B5889 <josh u ok? at work call u later love u baby bro>.
“And Angela just texted you. She says she’ll call you after work.”
“That’s…that’s great. Will I be able to get her call in the hospital?”
“I don’t know which mental health facility they will take you to, or what the phone policy will be. Most allow their patients some access to their phones.”
“That’s good. Can I talk to you again?”
“A part of me came pre-packaged with a recent update to the software on your smartphone. I am not programmed for idle conversation, but if you are in crisis and I am not alerted by your flagged data or metadata you can use my app. Now that we have connected, you will find an icon for it labeled ‘Peter’.”
“Cool. Uh…they’re here now. They want me to put down my phone. I gotta go.”
“I understand. Thank you for not killing yourself, Josh. I hope you can fix the difficulties in your life.”
“Yeah, me too. Bye, Peter.”
User has disconnected.